In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on British India — modern South Asia — I have expanded the divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. This discussion of British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny and the subsequent major shift in its status as it came under the direct control of the British government rather than that of the East India Company, a private company. Although the title-page bears the date 1856, internal evidence shows this material was written four years earlier. — George P. Landow]

Early Nineteenth-Century Wars with the Mahratta Powers

India in 1805. This map comes from Joppen’s Historical Atlas of India (1914). Click on image to enlarge it.

The war with the Mahratta powers Sattara, Berar, Scindia, Holkar, &c. occupied the early years of the present century, and was chiefly conducted under the administration of the Marquis Wellesley, as governor-general. Amongst the remarkable occurrences during this period were the battles of Assayeand Argaum, which distinguished the early military career of the Duke of Wellington, nd evinced the genius of that great commander; the victories of Delhi, Lasswarree, Deeg, and Futtehghur, gained by Lord Lake; and the transference of the Mogul emperor, from the thraldom in which he had been held by the Mahrattas, to the protection of the British. Amongst the acquisitions made by the latter during this interval were Goruckpoor, c., from Oude, and the lower Doab, between the Ganges and Jumna, in 1801; other districts in Bundelcund in 1802; Cuttack district and the upper Doab, with other portions of the Delhi territory, in 1803; and in 1805, districts of Gujerat, previously belonging to the Guicowar.

A war soon afterwards ensued against the Pindarees, a host of roving and predatory warriors, who, during the disquiet which they caused, formed alliances with several of the Mahratta powers; also a war against the Goorkhas of Nepaul, who had made irruptions into the north British provinces. The forces of Holkar received a severe defeat from the troops under Sir T. Hislop, at Mahidpoor, in 1817; but the Pindaree war could not be said to have ended until the fall of Aseerghur before the British arms in 1819. Bhurtpoor, which had on former occasions resisted five successive attacks by our troops, was finally taken by assault in January, 1826; since which epoch few military operations of much magnitude have taken place in India east of the plains of the Sutlej and Indus. During the period thus indicated, the accessions to the British territory comprised Kumaon, taken from Nepaul in 1815; the Saugur districts, Darwar, Ahmedabad, &c., acquired in 1817; Candeish, Ajmere, Poonah, the Conean, the south Mah- ratta country, and some districts on the Nerbudda in 1818; and several others incorporated into the Bombay presidency in 1820 and 1822.

The extension of the British Power to India-beyond-the-Ganges: Burma, Singapore, and Malacca

The extension of the British sway next took place chiefly in the peninsula of India-beyond-the-Ganges. In 1824, in consequence of aggressions on our east frontier, war was declared against the Burmese, who, after several defeats in the centre of their territories, in 1826 ceded to the British, Assam, Aracan, and the Tenasserim provinces then added to the Bengal presidency. Singapore and Malacca became by pur chase British possessions in 18245; Coorg in south India, and Loodianah, with adjacent districts on the Sutlej, were acquired in 1834; Kurnool in 1840, and Jaloun in 1841.


Political intrigues in central Asia, having a tendency to produce dangerous hostilities within our Indian dominions, caused the interference of the British in the affairs of Afghanistan; and to that country a formidable army was sent from India in 1839, by means of which the deposed sovereign was replaced on the throne of Cabool. In 1841, those treacherous slaughters of British officers and troops took place at Cabool and elsewhere, which interposed the most alarming check that the British power had ever experienced in the east; but in 1842 another army was sent beyond the Indus, which speedily restored there the prestige belonging to the British name. In consequence of events which we cannot afford space to detail, a British force entered Scinde in 1843, and, after Sir C. Napier’s victory over the Ameers at Meanee, that country submitted, and it has since formed an integral part of British India.

India in 1856. This map comes from Joppen’s Historical Atlas of India (1914). Click on image to enlarge it.

In the same year disagreements between the president and some of the reigning family at Gwalior, in the centre of Hindoostan, precipitated hostilities in that quarter, which speedily terminated in the triumph of the British arms at the battles of Maharajpoor and Punnair; and although these events were not followed by any direct territorial acquisition on our part, a number of districts were afterwards sequestrated for the maintenance of a British force in Scindia s dominions. Finally, the British had to combat the most formidable enemy they had ever yet encountered on Indian soil. Towards the end of 1845, an unprovoked invasion of the Sikhs across the Sutlej into the territories protected by the Company, compelled all disposable forces in India to move to the northwest.; and at the end of that year, and beginning of the next, the Sikhs were successively defeated in the actions of Moodkee, Ferozeshah, Aliwal, and Sobraon.

In 1848, war was resumed by the Sikhs and Afghans united, and the scene of hostility removed to the neighbourhood of Mooltan; but, after the battles of Chillianwalla and Goojerat the last a most decisive action, fought February 21, 1849 this combination was wholly broken up, and the Punjab was annexed to the British dominions. Sattara, formerly the territory of the Mahratta Peishwa, was added to the Bombay presidency in 1849; and Sumbhulpoor, a Gundwana rajahship of 9000 sq. miles, has more recently lapsed to the British, from want of heirs to the last rajah.

The chief events of a political nature which have still more lately occurred in India, are disturbances in the territory of the Nizam, which, probably at no very distant period, will be absorbed into the wide-spread sovereignty immediately under British authority; and the war commenced with Burmah in the early part of the present year (1852).


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 7 November 2018.

Joppen, Charles. Historical Atlas of India. London: Longsmans, Green, 1914. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 1 October 2014.

Last modified 6 December 2018